Light Rail on Broadway – The SkyTrain Lobby Ramps Up The Costs – BARSTA Fights Back

On June 22nd, at St. James Community Square 3214 West 10th Avenue at Trutch, a public meeting will take place concerning the building of ‘rail‘ transit on or under Broadway. What is of no great surprise, Translink has vastly ‘ramped’ up the cost for building modern light rail, with needless over-design. This is the tired old trick that plays so well in the Vancouver region, gold-plate a light rail project with so much needless engineering, that the costs of construction near that of itsAi??Ai??much more expensive cousin, light-metro (RAV & SkyTrain).

Elevating LRT greatly increases construction costs, taking away a major advantage of LRT over light-metro!

FromAi??Ai??a 2009Ai??Ai??BARSTA (Business and Residents for Sustainable Transit Alternatives) document …….

……. which shows the cost of a VCC/Commercial Drive to UBC, streetcar costing $370.7 million yet LRT built on the same route would cost almost three times as much as $998.7 million or almost $1 billion!


The difference between LRT and a streetcar is the concept of the reserved rights-of-ways (RRoW) and priority signaling at intersections; then why an almost three-fold cost of construction for LRT?

Simple RRoW in Europe, denoted by colour and small curb.

The answer is simple; gross over-engineering by planners and engineersAi??Ai??to artificially increase the cost of LRT to make it as expensive or more expensive than elevated SkyTrain or subway transit options! In other parts of the world, this is known a professional misconduct, but in Vancouver it is business as usual!

Vancouver already had a demonstration LRT line – it was of course, the temporary Olympic Line, which operated on a full RRoW, using two Bombardier Flexity tram cars, borrowed from a delivery to theAi??Ai??Brussels tram system. It is the RRoW, which can be as simple as a high occupancy lane (HOV) with rails or as elaborate as the Arbutus Corridor, which allows modern light rail unfettered operation, with operational parameters on par with light-metro!

Lawned RRoW and modest LRT/tram station in Europe.

By using the concept of the RRoW, station/tram-stops every 500m to 600m, with priority signaling at intersections and using the current power-poles and span wires now used by the trolleybuses, we could keep the cost of of a VCC/Commercial Drive LRT under $450 million or just slightly more than a basic streetcar line! Or better yet, a UBC/BCIT/Stanley Park LRT, costing under $1 billion,Ai??Ai??which would offer even more convenient destinations for the transit customer and would offer a real alternative to the car!

The powers that be, just do not want modern LRT operating in Vancouver and continue to over-engineer and gold-plate light rail/streetcar projectsAi??Ai??to make them unaffordable and unattractive toAi??Ai??politicians, taxpayers and residents.

Classic lawned RRoW!

The following is a quick primer for those advocating for modern light rail on Broadway.

  1. Capacity of modern LRT and streetcar/tram can exceed 20,000 persons per hour per direction.
  2. The capacity of a modern modular tram/LRT car now exceeds 350 persons.
  3. Modern LRT is 100% accessible for the mobility impaired without the need of expensive stations, elevators and escalators.
  4. Speed of a transit system is not the prime factor in attracting ridership, rather the overall ambiance, accessibility and ease of use are more important than speed. In fact it the the combination of many factors that attracts ridership to a public transit system.
  5. Priority signaling does not cause traffic gridlock at intersections. In fact, the light sequence for a tram/auto intersection Ai??Ai??at an intersection is much less than an auto/auto light controlled intersection.
  6. Modern LRT/streetcar/tram is one of the safest public transit mode in the world.
  7. Transportation capacity on Broadway will beAi??Ai??increased by about 18,000 pphpd, by using a LRT/tram inAi??Ai??one traffic lane per direction.
  8. Businesses along a streetcar/LRT route see about a 10% increase in business.
  9. There will be substantial operating costs savings by using LRT/streetcar instead of buses. One modern tram (1 driver) is as efficient as 6 to 8 buses (6 to 8 drivers).
  10. Modern LRT is very flexible in operation and could carry freight, as in Dresden, operate vintage trams and streetcars, or be used by specialty operators like a dinner tram.
  11. There is no truth that by building LRT will take away curb parking for local merchants, this is a decision by Vancouver’s Engineering Department to scare away support for LRT.
  12. Tram stops would be between 500m to 600m apart as studies have shown that the greatest amount of ridership for a LRT system comes within 300m radius of a tram line.
  13. Signaling on a Broadway will be ‘line-of-sight’ with local signals for intersections/crosswalks; switches; and areas of limited visibility/ Line-of-sight greatly reduces the cost of installation.
  14. LRT/streetcar can maintain minimum headways (time between trains) of 30 seconds.
  15. A ‘peak-hour’ 3 minute LRT/tram service (20 trips per hour), with cars having a capacity of 250 persons, would offer an hourly capacity of 5,000 pphpd. Operating 2-cars in multiple units (no added driver) effectively doubles the capacity to 10,000 pphpd. A 2 minute headway (30 trips per hour), using 2 car sets would offer an hourly capacity of 15,000!

UBC Broadway Transit Community Meeting

“No Cambie Fiasco for Broadway and West 10th”

A meeting for residents & local business representatives from across our city:

  • Learn about sustainable alternatives for Broadway
  • Review current TransLink and City positions and policies
  • Make your voice heard about Broadway transit and the communities along it

7:00PM – 9:00 PM A?ai??i??ai??? Tuesday, June 22, 2010
St. James Community Square 3214 West 10th Avenue at Trutch

E-mail :

Contacts :
Mel Lehan, Director, West Kitsilano Residents Association :
Donna Dobo, Director, West Broadway Business Association :

A 54m Budapest 'Caterpillar' with a capacity of 350 persons


2 Responses to “Light Rail on Broadway – The SkyTrain Lobby Ramps Up The Costs – BARSTA Fights Back”
  1. Jacky says:

    At super congested areas of Broadway, the LRT should be tunneled. At other places, there should be signal lights and railway crossings for the LRT.

    Zweisystem replies: Why? Once LRT/streetcar is in operation along Broadway, the street will be passively traffic-calmed and the need for tunneling will disappear. If the powers that be, built light rail properly (BCIT to UBC) and not as a “poorman’s” SkyTrain commuter congestion along Broadway would be greatly reduced. That Translink’s planners still think of LRT as a poor relation to SkyTrain, and all that tunneling would do is increase costs with little operational benefit.

  2. eric chris says:

    Jacky, how would TransLink ever pay for its seven executives attending meetings all day for them to strut around like big dogs? TransLink buffoons rank in the top 1% of wage earners in Canada! Maybe they aren’t so dumb after all and are making fools of everyone paying their obscene salaries to do what any high school graduate could do:

    I’ll send you an email later in the week. It will include a confidential report showing that TransLink does not reduce carbon emissions. Since 2011, carbon emissions would have dropped without any transit by TransLink in Metro Vancouver.

    In addition, cars would have taken up at most 1% more road space without any transit but TransLink typically reduces road space by 33% to make way for its express buses operating in restricted lanes and catering to sky train. In fact, sky train leads to severe bottlenecks on the roads for drivers and increases road congestion. The report also shows that trams are statistically much faster for the distance traveled by most commuters in Vancouver.

    “Perhaps a pre-emptive lawsuit from businesses and drivers” being scammed by TransLink will fix things here. We could sue TransLink for all the money misappropriated under the pretence that sky train reduces carbon emissions and road congestion.

    Furthermore, residents in Point Grey are tired of pleading with TransLink for TransLink to quit harassing us with its inane 99 B-Line service when UBC is closed and all the buses going to UBC are mostly empty. There are 13 unnecessary bus routes going to UBC – all with few on board to build up ridership on the 99 B-Line for TransLink to have an excuse to extend sky train to UBC.

    If you are unaware, TransLink forces transit users on the No. 9 trolley buses to board the 99 B-Line at Alma Street and curtails the No. 9 trolley buses at Alma Street to build up its ridership on the 99 B-Line costing much more to operate than the efficient electric No. 9 trolley buses. This is really not right.

    TransLink could just operate the No. 9 to UBC most of the time to save riders time but it doesn’t and forces transit riders to make the “time wasting” transfer onto the 99 B-Line even though the toxic particulate matter emissions from the 99 B-Lines are increasing cancer and asthma rates in Vancouver. Broadway thanks to the noxious 99 B-Line diesel buses operating at their extreme two minute frequency has the worst air quality in Vancouver! Ridding Vancouver of TransLink is the right thing to do.